UPMC Physician Resources

Greater Social Media Use Tied to Higher Risk of Eating and Body Image Concerns in Young Adults

Logging on to social media sites frequently throughout the week or spending hours trolling various social feeds during the day is linked to a greater risk of young adults developing eating and body image concerns, a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine analysis discovered.

Gender, specific age, race and income did not influence the association; the study found that all demographic groups were equally affected by the link between social media and eating and body image concerns, indicating that preventative messages should target a broad population. The results are reported in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the research was funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

“We’ve long known that exposure to traditional forms of media, such as fashion magazines and television, is associated with the development of disordered eating and body image concerns, likely due to the positive portrayal of ‘thin’ models and celebrities,” said lead author Jaime E. Sidani, PhD, MPH, assistant director of Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health. “Social media combines many of the visual aspects of traditional media with the opportunity for social media users to interact and propagate stereotypes that can lead to eating and body image concerns.”

Dr. Sidani and her colleagues sampled 1,765 U.S. adults ages 19 through 32 in 2014, using questionnaires to determine social media use. The questionnaires asked about the 11 most popular social media platforms at the time: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.

They cross-referenced those results with the results of another questionnaire that used established screening tools to assess eating disorder risk.

Eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and other clinical and mental health issues where people have a distorted body image and disordered eating. These issues disproportionately affect adolescents and young adults. However, more general disordered eating, body dissatisfaction, and negative or altered body image likely affect a broader group of individuals.

The participants who spent the most time on social media throughout the day had 2.2 times the risk of reporting eating and body image concerns, compared to their peers who spent less time on social media. And participants who reported most frequently checking social media throughout the week had 2.6 times the risk, compared with those who checked least frequently.

Senior author Brian A. Primack, MD, PhD, assistant vice chancellor for health and society in Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences, noted that the analysis could not determine whether social media use was contributing to eating and body image concerns or vice versa – or both.

“It could be that young adults who use more social media are exposed to more images and messages that encourage development of disordered eating,” he said.

Previous research has shown that people tend to post images online that present themselves positively. For example, users are likely to select the scant few that may make them appear thinner from hundreds of more “accurate” photographs of themselves, resulting in others being exposed to unrealistic expectations for their appearance.

“Conversely, people who have eating and body image concerns might then be turning to social media to connect with groups of people who also have these concerns,” said Dr. Primack. “However, connecting with these groups for social support could inhibit recovery because of the desire to continue being a part of the shared identity such social media groups foster.”

In an effort to battle social media-fueled eating disorders, Instagram banned the hashtags ‘thinspiration’ and ‘thinspo,’ but users easily circumvented these barriers by spelling the words slightly differently. YouTube videos about anorexia nervosa that could be classified as “pro-anorexia” received higher viewer ratings than informative videos highlighting the health consequences of the eating disorder.

“More research is needed in order to develop effective interventions to counter social media content that either intentionally or unintentionally increases the risk of eating disorders in users,” said Dr. Sidani. “We suggest studies that follow users over time and seek to answer the cause-and-effect questions surrounding social media use and risk for eating and body image concerns.”

Additional authors on this research are Ariel Shensa, MA, Beth Hoffman, and Janel Hanmer, MD, PhD, all of Pitt.

This research was funded by NCI grant R01-CA140150.

UPMC Ranks 45th in InformationWeek’s Elite 100

UPMC was named to the InformationWeek Elite 100 for the third year in a row. The annually published list recognizes the top business technology innovators across varying industries. UPMC was ranked No. 45 in addition to receiving the newly established Decade Award.

Improving on last year’s No. 77 ranking, UPMC remains committed to integrating new technology into the health care it provides. Recently, advancements in telemedicine and collaborations with leading academic institutions and health care technology startups have reaffirmed UPMC’s role as a technology innovator.

This year, InformationWeek recognized ten companies that have consistently demonstrated innovation with the Decade Award. UPMC placed second on this list among companies that are models of innovation, consistently ranking highly in the InformationWeek Elite 100 over the last ten years.

“UPMC relies on advancements in technology to excel clinically and operationally. With the shift to patient-centric care, technology is needed now more than ever,” said Ed McCallister, UPMC’s senior vice president and chief information officer. “We are focused on providing the best possible experience for our patients through our integrated health care delivery and financing system, and our focus remains on developing and utilizing technology that furthers that goal.”

Consistently named a “Most Wired” health system by Hospitals & Health Networks, the journal of the American Hospital Association, UPMC has invested over $1.5 billion in recent years to support technology that advances clinical outcomes and administrative efficiency. UPMC continues to pioneer the use of electronic medical records, analytics and “big data.”

Additional information on the InformationWeek Elite 100 can be found online at http://www.informationweek.com/elite100.

Easy Ways to Improve Patient Comfort During Skin Cancer Screenings

New research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine suggests two simple ways dermatologists can make patients more comfortable during full-body skin cancer checks: respect patient preferences for the physician’s gender as well as whether, and how, they prefer to have their genitals examined. The findings are published online today in JAMA Dermatology.

“This study identifies barriers to getting skin checks. Giving patients choices that reduce embarrassment during an exam may make a person more likely to get regular skin checks, leading to higher rates of skin cancer detection,” said lead author Laura Ferris, MD, PhD, associate professor, Department of Dermatology, Pitt School of Medicine and member of the Melanoma Program, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

Estimates suggest that one in five people will develop skin cancer over the course of a lifetime. Rates of melanoma, which account for less than one percent of skin cancer cases but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths, have tripled over the last 40 years.

The best way to prevent skin cancer is to use adequate protective measures during sun exposure, perform regular self-examinations, and, for those patients at increased risk of developing skin cancer, obtain annual full-body screenings from a dermatologist, said Ferris.

The current study was born out of an observation from Ferris’ own dermatology practice: many women wanted female physicians and were uncomfortable having male students in the room during their exams. While a strong preference for a same gender physician has been documented among patients undergoing colonoscopies, there wasn’t much data available about dermatology, Ferris explained.

In the new study, the researchers at three institutions, including UPMC, administered an anonymous survey to 443 adults undergoing a full-body screening for skin cancer.

Overall, people generally preferred a physician who shared their gender. Breaking the data down by gender, one third of women and nearly one fifth of men expressed a gender preference. Among this group, nearly all (99 percent) of the women preferred a female physician, and almost two thirds of the men preferred a male physician.

The biggest predictor of preferring a female physician among women was being under age 30. Young women have one of the fastest growing rates of melanoma, so taking physician gender preference into account in this group may have an especially large impact, Ferris noted.

Typically, patients are asked to completely disrobe for a skin cancer screening. When asked about clothing preferences, nearly half of women and 40 percent of men preferred to leave their undergarments in place during the exam.

“What we learned is that a substantial number of people preferred to leave their undergarments on and have us work around them,” said Ferris.

Less than 1 percent of melanomas are found in the genital region, so with 31 percent of women and 13 percent of men preferring not to have their genitals examined at all, another important message from the study is that physicians need to balance the benefit of occasionally finding a genital melanoma with causing a lot of people discomfort or anxiety, she added.

The researchers are now focused on putting their findings into practice. “When we think about the relative risks and benefits of cancer screening, if we’re causing people discomfort, then we need to think of that as doing harm. Our study provides some easy ways to reduce that harm,” Ferris said. “In the age of personalized medicine, taking simple steps, such as offering a choice of physician gender and degree of disrobement during an examination, can allow us to personalize the skin cancer screening examination to minimize discomfort.”

Co-authors of the study include Neil Houston, BA, and Westley Mori, BA, both of Pitt School of Medicine; Aaron Secrest, MD, PhD, and Mark Eliason, MD, both of University of Utah; and Ryan Harris, MD, and Charles Phillips, MD, both of East Carolina University.

The study was funded by National Institutes of Health grants UL1-TR-000005 and P50CA121973.

Pitt Research Yields Insight into the Mystery of Smell

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have uncovered the mechanism underlying a phenomenon in how we smell that has puzzled researchers for decades. In an article appearing online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team reports that, surprisingly, the mechanism follows a simple physics principle called cooperativity.

Inhalation of a scent sends a complex mixture of odor molecules swirling toward the back of the nose, where they bind to specialized receptors that are located on millions of olfactory neurons. Activation of these receptors sends signals from the olfactory neurons to the brain, where the smell is deciphered.

Individual neurons have only a single type of receptor and, therefore, recognize only specific odor molecules. However, the hundreds of different types of olfactory receptors are found, or expressed, in approximately equal numbers across the entire population of neurons, which allows a person to detect a wide variety of smells, explained senior investigator Jianhua Xing, PhD, associate professor of computational and systems biology, Pitt School of Medicine. Richard Axel, Columbia University, and Linda Buck, now at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, received the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering the receptors and making these observations.

“Over the past decades, neuroscientists have been trying to uncover how nature accomplishes these two goals: selecting one, and only one, type of olfactory receptor for each neuron, while at the same time ensuring that all receptor types are represented in the whole population of neurons,” said Dr. Xing.

The mysteries of how we smell have generated many experimental observations about how olfactory receptors actually work. In the new study, Dr. Xing and colleagues used these existing experimental data to create a computational model of how olfactory receptor expression can be both uniform across a single neuron, yet very diverse across the entire population of neurons. They then used this model to correctly predict several additional findings that have been demonstrated by other research groups, demonstrating that their model is valid.

Surprisingly, the model suggested a three-pronged regulation of olfactory receptor gene expression that follows a basic physics principle called cooperativity, in which elements in a system influence the behavior of one another rather than function independently. Cooperativity can explain many phenomena, such as the transition between liquid and vapor states, why oil and water do not mix, and even other biological processes such as how a protein folds.

“We are amazed that nature has solved the seemingly daunting engineering process of olfactory receptor expression in such a simple way,” said Dr. Xing.

The findings pave the way for new predictions about how olfactory receptors function that can be tested in future experiments, the results of which will help the team refine their model and make even more predictions.

The research team also included Xiao-Jun Tian, PhD, of Pitt; Jens Sannerud, former Pitt undergraduate summer research fellow, currently of Brown University; and Hang Zhang, PhD, of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

This research was funded by National Science Foundation awards DMS-1545771 and DMS-1462049.

Pitt-Developed Drug Works Against ‘Superbug’ Biofilms and Respiratory Virus

A potential drug therapy developed at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Vaccine Research (CVR) has proven effective against tough bacterial biofilms and a deadly respiratory virus simultaneously. The drug outperforms traditional therapies in the laboratory setting.

The results, reported in the journal mSphere, build on a recent discovery from Pitt’s School of Medicine showing that the virus encourages biofilm growth and point to a new way to treat drug-resistant bacteria, including so-called “superbugs” that are resistant to almost all existing antibiotics and have become the focus of worldwide efforts to limit their spread.

“This is really unusual. To the best of our knowledge, no other antibiotics out there work on both the bacteria and the virus during a co-infection,” said senior author Jennifer M. Bomberger, PhD, assistant professor in Pitt’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. “Antibiotic-resistant chronic infections are an urgent public health threat, and the development of new therapies has been painfully slow. So to see something work on a virus and the incredibly resistant biofilms that bacteria form is very exciting.”

Chronic infections, such as those that kill cystic fibrosis patients, resist the body’s efforts to clear them from the lungs, sinuses or other areas. Often these infections are characterized by biofilms, which are bacteria that stick together forming colonies that are as much as 400 times as resistant to antibiotics as a single bacterium.

The potential drug therapy relies on an engineered cationic antimicrobial peptide, or “eCAP,” which is a synthetic and more efficient version of naturally occurring antimicrobial peptides that form a first line of defense against infections in humans. Developed by co-author Ronald C. Montelaro, PhD, professor and co-director of Pitt’s CVR, the eCAP works by “punching into” bacteria and viruses, thereby destroying them.

Dr. Bomberger and her team tested the eCAP in the laboratory by growing biofilms of drug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria on the cells that line the airway and then treating them for one hour with the eCAP. The eCAP was 50 times more effective at fighting the biofilm than traditional treatment, but did not harm the airway cells.

The team then did the same test, this time on airway cells first infected with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which causes serious infection in infants and older adults, as well as people with compromised lungs. In February, Dr. Bomberger reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that RSV helps Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms grow.

“When the body responds to fight the virus, it inadvertently leaves an Achilles heel by fostering an environment rich in the nutrient iron, which aids the bacteria in forming a biofilm,” said Dr. Bomberger.

The eCAP was 10 times more effective at fighting the biofilm in a virus-bacteria co-infection compared with traditional therapy. And when the eCAP was used on airway cells infected only with RSV, the number of viable virus particles was reduced by more than 150-fold.

The eCAP also worked against bacterial biofilms grown on plastic, indicating that it could be a good treatment for cleaning medical equipment, such as bronchoscopes, where biofilms sometimes grow.

“We’re incredibly encouraged by these results,” said Dr. Montelaro. “Again and again, eCAPS are performing well in laboratory tests and mouse models. They’re an exciting possibility to help solve the antimicrobial-resistant superbug crisis that our world increasingly faces.”

Additional researchers on this study are Jeffrey A. Melvin, PhD, Lauren P. Lashua, BS, Megan R. Kiedrowski, PhD, and Berthony Deslouches, MD, PhD, all of Pitt; and Guanyi Yang, BS, of Pitt and Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.

This research was funded by National Institutes of Health grants T32AI49820, R00HL098342, R01HL123771 and P30DK072506; and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation grants MELVIN15F0 and BOMBER14G0.

Pitt Nursing Earns Worldwide Recognition

The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing’s outstanding reputation for excellence has been confirmed again with recent recognition as 12th in the world on the 2016 QS World University Rankings by subject, based on academic reputation, employer evaluation and research impact.

This international recognition is the most recent of accolades bestowed on Pitt Nursing with other exceptional rankings, including 5th on the 2016 U.S. News & World Report list of Best Graduate Schools, and 8th on the 2017 U.S. News & World Report list of Best Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs.

“It is an honor to be valued as a world-class nursing program based upon our faculty’s research impact, measured through citations, a wide desire for our graduates, and a strong academic reputation. We are pleased to join our peers across the U.S. and the globe in advancing the education and science underlying nursing in a time of transformation of nursing around the world,” said Jacqueline Dunbar-Jacob, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean of Pitt’s School of Nursing.

The School of Nursing has more than 960 students enrolled in its bachelor’s, master’s, Ph.D. and doctor of nursing practice programs.

Women with Cystic Fibrosis May Benefit from Specialized Sexual and Reproductive Health Care and Education, UPMC Study Shows

 

PrintFor female cystic fibrosis (CF) patients and providers, individual CF health care specialists have a significant role in helping patients gain access to educational resources that can help them improve sexual and   reproductive health, according to a study by researchers at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Women with CF face important disease-specific sexual and reproductive health concerns, including delays in puberty, increased risk of vaginal yeast infections, urinary incontinence, problems with sexual function, concerns regarding contraceptive choice, decreased fertility, and adverse effects of pregnancy on their lungs.

The study, published online this week in Pediatrics, led by Traci Kazmerski, MD, fellow, Division of Pulmonology, Children’s Hospital, sought to find the best ways to provide women with CF effective sexual and reproductive health care by interviewing CF center directors from a nationwide sample as well as young adult women with the disease and asked them about their experiences and preferences. The findings may help guide the development of educational resources around sexual and reproductive health for women with CF.

Both CF providers and patients agreed that the CF provider has a fundamental role in providing CF-specific sexual and reproductive health care. They also believed that educational resources and provider training on sexual and reproductive health topics would improve patient care in this area.

“Patients were clear that they want both sexual and reproductive health educational resources and for their CF providers to begin those discussions, early and routinely,” said Dr. Kazmerski. “Our next step is to figure out how to do this as we care for our patients with CF.”

“This study provides some critical guidance on how to better provide sexual and reproductive health education and care for adolescents with cystic fibrosis, and encourages us to consider how to integrate such care for all adolescents with chronic medical conditions,” said co-author Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD, chief, Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Children’s Hospital.

In addition to Drs. Kazmerski and Miller, other authors include David Orenstein, MD, and Daniel Weiner, MD, Joseph Pilewski, MD, and Sonya Borrero, MD, all of UPMC; and Lisa Tuchman, MD, of Children’s National Health System.

The study was supported by a grant from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (KAZMER13B0).

Jameson Health System and UPMC Merge to Officially Form UPMC Jameson

• As of May 1, 2016, UPMC Jameson is officially established.

• UPMC will invest $75 million to develop services and facilities in Lawrence County with an additional $10 million earmarked for strategic physician recruitment.

• Lawrence County will advance on the cutting edge in health care technology and quality assurance with local access to world-class UPMC.

• A regionally coordinated approach to health care for Lawrence and Mercer counties delivered through UPMC Jameson and UPMC Horizon will ensure local access to comprehensive services aligned to the needs of the region.

Jameson Health System (Jameson) and UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) are pleased to announce that on May 1, 2016 Jameson merged into the UPMC network. UPMC Jameson now is officially established to deliver world-class health care for the residents of Lawrence County and its surrounding communities.

“The strongest solution for a healthy future for our communities has been achieved through our proud affiliation with UPMC,” said Doug Danko, president, UPMC Jameson. “After more than a year-long process requiring perseverance and commitment to the highest interests of area residents, this positive outcome is a credit to the determination of our Board of Directors and the support that we have received from our community.”

An arbitration decision in January paved the way by which Jameson and UPMC could merge following successful completion of a Consent Decree addressing the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General’s concerns about the transaction.

UPMC will invest $75 million to develop services and facilities in Lawrence County and provide an additional $10 million dedicated to physician recruitment for expansion of clinical advancements in the region.

Furthermore, the UPMC merger services all of Jameson’s debt, secures all employee pensions, and assures that it remains a vibrant acute care facility offering advanced services locally now and into the future.

“The outstanding clinical, educational and technological resources of UPMC will benefit health care outcomes throughout this entire region,” said Frank Mindicino, vice-chairman, UPMC Jameson and UPMC Horizon Boards of Directors. “UPMC, UPMC Horizon and UPMC Jameson will collaborate to grow and develop the best plan for services aligned to Mercer and Lawrence counties’ health care priorities and needs.”

UPMC is a world-class academic medical center and is consistently ranked in the prestigious U.S. News & World Report annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals.

“Our nationwide search proved that UPMC is the single best-qualified partner to fulfill all requirements set forth by Jameson’s Board of Directors,” said Steven Warner, chairman, UPMC Jameson and UPMC Horizon Boards of Directors. “We owe a debt of gratitude to Doug Danko for his vigilance in helping to achieve none other than the strongest outcome for Lawrence County. We are elated that a long-term future of world-class health care has been solidified for our region.”

Both Jameson and UPMC have a long history of providing high-quality, responsive and cost-effective care.

“We are pleased to begin executing our strategic vision for the region,” said Dave Martin, senior vice president, hospital division, UPMC. “A plan is being developed for both UPMC Jameson and UPMC Horizon to expand service offerings and it will incorporate results of physician manpower, community health needs and facilities studies to identify and prioritize developments to continually advance patient care services, access and outcomes within Lawrence and Mercer counties.”

The combined governance of UPMC Jameson and UPMC Horizon will result in a regionally coordinated approach to maximize efficiencies and align resources to deliver a comprehensive complement of specialized health care services locally for the Lawrence-Mercer region.

“We are excited to expand our physician and clinical care teams with new career opportunities resulting in job growth for the local economy,” said Danko. “I am proud of the dedication of our engaged medical staff and loyal employees who provide exceptional health care to our neighbors. Together, we celebrate this victory of preservation and growth of a vital community asset and our premier local health care delivery system—now with a new name: UPMC Jameson.”

Danko added, “We are now positioned to become stronger than ever.”

Pitt Computational Model Finds New Protein-Protein Interactions in Schizophrenia

Approach Can Shed New Light on Biological Processes Affected by the Mental Illness

Using a computational model they developed, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have discovered more than 500 new protein-protein interactions (PPIs) associated with genes linked to schizophrenia. The findings, published online today in npj Schizophrenia, a Nature Publishing Group journal, could lead to greater understanding of the biological underpinnings of this mental illness, as well as point the way to treatments.

There have been many genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that have identified gene variants associated with an increased risk for schizophrenia, but in most cases there is little known about the proteins that these genes make, what they do and how they interact, said senior investigator Madhavi Ganapathiraju, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical informatics, Pitt School of Medicine.

“GWAS studies and other research efforts have shown us what genes might be relevant in schizophrenia,” she said. “What we have done is the next step. We are trying to understand how these genes relate to each other, which could show us the biological pathways that are important in the disease.”

Each gene makes proteins and proteins typically interact with each other in a biological process. Information about interacting partners can shed light on the role of a gene that has not been studied, revealing pathways and biological processes associated with the disease and also its relation to other complex diseases.

Dr. Ganapathiraju’s team developed a computational model called High-Precision Protein Interaction Prediction (HiPPIP) and applied it to discover PPIs of schizophrenia-linked genes identified through GWAS, as well as historically known risk genes. They found 504 never-before known PPIs, and noted also that while schizophrenia-linked genes identified historically and through GWAS had little overlap, the model showed they shared more than 100 common interactors.

“We can infer what the protein might do by checking out the company it keeps,” Dr. Ganapathiraju explained. “For example, if I know you have many friends who play hockey, it could mean that you are involved in hockey, too. Similarly, if we see that an unknown protein interacts with multiple proteins involved in neural signaling, for example, there is a high likelihood that the unknown entity also is involved in the same.”

Dr. Ganapathiraju and colleagues have drawn such inferences on protein function based on the PPIs of proteins, and made their findings available on a website Schizo-Pi that is publicly-accessible at http://severus.dbmi.pitt.edu/schizo-pi.

This information can be used by biologists to explore the schizophrenia interactome with the aim of understanding more about the disease or developing new treatment drugs.

The research team included Mohamed Thahir, MS, PhD, Adam Handen, MS, Saumendra N.  Sarkar, PhD, Robert A.  Sweet, M.D., PhD, Vishwajit L. Nimgaonkar, MD, PhD, Eileen M.  Bauer, PhD, and Srilakshmi Chaparala, MS, all of Pitt; and Christine E. Loscher, PhD, of Dublin City University, Ireland.

This project was funded by the Biobehavioral Research Awards for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS) grant MH094564 awarded to Dr. Ganapathiraju by the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Gwendolyn Sowa, MD, PhD, Named Chair of Pitt’s Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has chosen one of its own renowned faculty members to be the next chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R). Gwendolyn Sowa, MD, PhD, who will assume her new role July 1, also holds joint appointments in the School of Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Bioengineering. She also serves as associate dean for medical student research and medical director of UPMC Total Care-Musculoskeletal Health.

“Dr. Sowa’s many accomplishments demonstrate her ability to cross specialties and to collaborate effectively in the clinical, research and educational arenas,” noted Arthur S. Levine, MD, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine. “She is the definition of a committed teacher and mentor.”

The department of PM&R ranks among the nation’s top programs in research funding from the National Institutes of Health and includes a team of multidisciplinary faculty members who train and educate the next generation of rehabilitation physicians and researchers, specializing in the fields of traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, diseases and disorders of the musculoskeletal and peripheral nervous system, and many other conditions that affect function and mobility.

“We are fortunate to have had Dr. Sowa as an internal candidate,” said Steven D. Shapiro, MD, executive vice president, chief medical and scientific officer, and president, Health Services Division, UPMC. “Her extraordinary dedication to every aspect of her work will continue to strengthen the innovative mission of this program.”

Dr. Sowa’s research centers on molecular, laboratory-based translational and clinical research, investigating the effect of motion on inflammatory pathways and the beneficial effects of exercise. She is co-director of the Ferguson Laboratory for Orthopaedic and Spine Research, a 3,000-square-foot laboratory fully equipped to perform molecular assays, including gene expression analysis, protein analysis, cell and organ culture, histology, and cellular and spinal biomechanical testing. She also has an active research program investigating the role of serum biomarkers in guiding individualized treatment in intervertebral disc degeneration and back pain. She has received national recognition for her research.

Dr. Sowa completed her MD and PhD in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, followed by residency training at Northwestern University, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

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